Beginners Guide: Nature Photography and Lighting

The first step in taking better nature pictures is recognizing the light conditions in your environment. A DSLR camera’s fuel, like a car, is the light available to reach the camera sensor. Many beginning photographers stick to auto modes and these modes work best with the right amount of light.

Why is light conditions important?

With more available light, the faster the DSLR camera’s shutter speed can be. Nature is rarely still enough to shoot at slow shutter speeds and a slow shutter speed introduces movement in the capture, rather than a perfect still.

Light and Shutter Speed

For an example, lets look at the butterfly and shutter speed setting. The Giant Swallowtail flutters fast constantly, rarely giving a photographer a still moment. A shutter speed less than 1000, more than likely will produce too much motion in your image, rather than a complete still photo.

Giant Swallowtail
Giant Swallowtail photo: motion introduced due to slow shutter speed. By Rafael De Armas

In order to obtain a shutter speed of 1000, the right amount of light must be available. Shooting on a cloudy day or in the shade with a shutter speed of 1000 will result in an overly underexposed capture.

Giant Swallowtail
Giant Swallowtail still capture. By Rafael De Armas

Light and F-Number

The right amount of light allows you to increase your F-Number. The right F-Number gives better focus on your subject. Take a look at the difference in these two captures of Mockingbirds. The first one was captured with a lower F-Number and the result is less focus on the entire body, leaving the feet out of focus. The second one was captured with a higher F-Number and the result is that the entire bird is in complete sharp focus.

Mockingbird
Mockingbird: Feet out of focus, by Rafael De Armas
Mockingbird
Mockingbird: Entire body in clear sharp focus, by Rafael De Armas

Tip: Direction of the Sun

Here’s a quick tip in recognizing the right time to click. If the sun is hitting your eyes, meaning you’re facing the sun, it’s a bad time to take a picture, because your subject is facing you and the front of it is shaded.

Beginning nature photographers tend to get overly excited when seeing a wild animal and the position of the sun becomes an after thought. Over the course of your career, you’ll start to notice that your best pictures are captured when your patience includes your lighting conditions.

Team NatureGraphy

Stay tuned for part two of our Beginners Guide: Nature Photography and Lighting Part Two

Feel free to add to this article using the comment section below or simple add your thoughts and share with your friends.

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3 thoughts on “Beginners Guide: Nature Photography and Lighting

  1. I shall be looking out for more tips as my camera skills are non existent but would love to know what to do even just a bit of knowledge would be great.

  2. Love that you are doing this. Thank you.

    1. You’re very welcome, it’s our pleasure to help the best we can :)

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